Thursday, January 5, 2012

A brief history of riding motorbikes

I first started riding motorcycles when I was a tiny skinny boy in the Adelaide Hills at the age of four when my Dad bought me a PeeWee 50. It has been a love affair ever since.
My flat mate and I had matching Suzuki RGV 250s at the time, carving up the Adelaide hills trying to destroy each other.

I kept riding dirt bikes for as long as I can remember before getting my license at 16 and a while later getting into road bikes.

My first proper big bike (it felt enormous at the time) was an old Suzuki ER 185 and used to ride that on the dirt back roads and eventually the country roads around Langhorne Creek in South Australia.

But it wasn't until I got closer to the city that I started out on a Kawasaki ZZR 250 which was a screamer that went nowhere quick, so I got on a Suzuki RGV 250 and headed into the Adelaide Hills and out onto the Chain of Ponds roads. Some great rides to be had out that way. I grew out of two fifties pretty quickly and picked up an J or K model GSXR 750 which was an awesome bike but bloody powerful moving up to it from a rice burner.

A big four-cylinder Jap bike kicks some serious speed when you weigh about 65kgs and don't mind letting it rip. Then one day I had a bit of a scare travelling up the freeway, back when Devil's Elbow was still a notoriously bad stretch of road in Adelaide, a truck on the outside of me cornering quite hard my back wheel hit an oil slick and the bike slid towards the truck and for a split second I saw the end of my life happening right in front of me.

My prize possession Suzuki GSRX 750 in British racing green.

Fortunately that human preservation instinct kicked in and I found the courage to accelerate hard and found some traction at the last moment and I managed to pull around the inside of the corner and out-of-the-way of the truck. That was on my Gixxer in the early nineties (pictured right) and it was a few seconds of road experience I will never forget. I pulled over immediately shaken to the core and white, thinking back I think I went into shock actually, and within a week I had sold the bike and gone back into four-wheel transport, the trusty car.

I moved to Victoria early in 2000 and it wasn’t long again before I realized the benefits of riding two wheels again and my new Melbourne best friend, the Wombat, was a keen rider and egged me back onto two wheels and a Suzuki GSX 400 (can't find a pic of this heap of shit).

That bike was a pig. It had these ridiculous imported sliders in the carby that used to fall off when you leaned over (!) or moved or tried to use it in any way similar to that of a regular motorbike. This lead to a highly inconvenient roadside rebuild (seat off, tank bolt loosened, carby lid lifted and sliders put back on and then all back together), if often lead to smelling like petrol for the rest of the day. I put up with that for a good few months and realised the bug had got me again, this time in the streets of Melbourne, and I got onto a Yamaha TRX 850.

I had a total and utter lust for that bike (can't find a pic of it anywhere dammit!) and when I found a near mint condition one in blue with racing plates I immediately fell in love, bought it and found the joy and torque of riding torquey twins. I guess now it was inevitable that I would eventually (finally) end up on a Ducati.

But alas, I hadn't quite got there yet. The TRX lasted maybe another year before I realised that I was no cafe racer, a meer commuter with a lanky 6'2" build I was doing damage to myself every time I got on that bike in the form of lower back pain. I needed to get upright again but with power. Upright and Power. Hmm..

Then I saw the Buell. A massive agricultural monster of a bike, the Ulysses XB12X talked to me, whispered 'ride me' at me with a seductive lust that couldn't be ignored and I had to obey. A big upright motard of sorts, the Buell was an excellent bike with almost everything I liked about riding. Simple, power, torque oozing from every bolt and a bizarre combination of new technology and just plain different.

I really loved that bike and rode it daily for four years before I had a test ride on the Ducati Hypermotard EVO SP at Ducati City. That was it, I was gone. The Buell now felt like a huge heavy lump of a thing that lacked finesse. It had to go. There was an interim bike in between but I don't really want to talk about that.

It cost me dearly and hurt my feelings. I also looked hard and long at the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200 which ticked a lot of boxes but felt like it didn't quite fit my previously mentioned tall lanky bastard build. Somehow my knees felt all wrong pressed into the tank and I just wasn't as comfortable on board.

And so it came to be finally that I bit the bullet and got my very first Ducati.

The Hypermotard EVO SP 2012 model and I am yet to look back. So to wrap up this brief history of my life on two wheels, I have been riding on and off for the last 35 years. Every year on Australia Day, I get to take four days off and ride around some of the best twisties the Victorian and NSW back roads have to offer.

I can't wait for this year, on board my Hyper of course, with Contour ROAM attached to the handlebars. There should be some good videos to follow-up with :P While I haven't done any advanced rider training, or track days, it is something I would really like to do. I may not have that training or experience to pull from but I have done a lot of hours on top of two wheels, both off-road and on.

I think I am an average rider, still heaps to learn, but I love it more than anything else, being on two wheels is like flying. There is a freedom about it, a connectedness to the machine and mind that reminds me I am alive every time I step on. The minute I stepped on the Hyper, I knew I felt connected to it in that way.

The bike dissappeared and it was me flying through the air, the wheels sticking me to the road, every millimeter of the bike just an extension of my body and that is not something that every bike can give you.

I can't believe I've waited this long to own one. I'm never looking back.